Friday, September 27, 2013

When They Don't Get It And You Do

Earlier this week I was checking my Google Analytics and noticed more traffic than usual to my site. I clicked the links to discover that a blog I wrote  on what to do if you get a pink slip that also appeared on The Huffington Post had been repurposed for The Sydney Morning Herald, The Brisbane Times  and The Canberra Times.  In Australia!

I was pretty excited. I was living one of those miracle moments of the digital world. My "sagely advice" was being quoted in Australia - literally halfway around the world! As a blogger and as a writer that is a very good day. 

That evening I was having dinner with some friends. I was still bursting with my unexpected discovery when I arrived at the restaurant, so I shared. 

The first response I got was "Are they paying you for that?"

I kept what I wanted to say inside of my head - which was  - are you #@!##!! kidding me? I just tell you that my post is picked up in a major paper in Australia and all you want to know is if I got paid for it!!??

What I did let out of my mouth was this.

"No, they didn't pay me. But they certainly credited me. And really - I got picked up in Australia!"

"Yeah, but they should pay you for it."

I found myself starting to defend the whole thing. To explain to this man who spends his days locked inside a corporate office the value of exposure to an entirely new audience - for my writing and for my business. That allowing sharing on the web as long as it is attributable to the author can ultimately result in more money than being paid for the article. (Not that being paid wouldn't be nice). I told him in the world of marketing this is called earned media.  I explained what a Creative Commons License meant.  I tried to make him see that I get to do what I love, and someone on the far side of the globe noticed it's value.

But then I noticed the vacant look in his eyes. 

He didn't get it. He wasn't going to get it. In fact I'm not sure he wanted to.

He is a part of the old way of doing business in which the cardinal rule is to never do anything unless  there is a direct and clear money line attached. The idea of being generous with your ideas is foreign to them. They are not sure how to spell 'free' much less offer it. They don't understand the value of online connection unless they see immediate monetization. The only metric of success they value is money.

I took a long sip of my wine. I smiled and let the conversation go elsewhere. It didn't matter that he didn't get it. I do. And for that I am very grateful.

Note- I will be speaking at BlogHerPro a conference for professionally-minded online influencers interested in taking their business, marketing and technical skills to the next level. If that's you join me there and use promo code PRO13FF for 30% off BlogHer Pro '13 Registration!

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Selling Is Sleazy - Or Is It?

You say sell and people think sleazy. 

They picture Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman or Herb Tarlek of WKRP in Cincinnati. They remember Alec Baldwin's classic performance in GlenGarry Glen Ross. They think used car salesmen in plaid pants and a mismatched tie attempting to sell them a lemon.

And if they are not old enough to remember any of that - they still scrunch up their faces and scowl. 

The word 'sell' continues to conjure up images of inauthenticity and old school marketing tactics.

But not for me. I know better. I know that learning how to sell - especially in today's new economy - is essential if you want success. 

Selling is the cornerstone of commerce and has been since the beginning of time. Without something to sell, we have no economic model. Without someone to sell it there is no money earned. And last time I checked - that is the currency we use so we may put food on the table and a roof over our heads. 

There is no doubt that how we sell (like just about every other profession and industry) is in a state of disruption. Customers are more educated than ever before. And in the age of noise, we all hate - more than ever - to feel as if we are being pushed.

But the truth is that in today's brave new digital world - whether we want to admit it or not - we are selling every day. 

All of us. 

If not a product, we are selling ourselves. Through social networks and at cocktail parties. To our bosses, our employees, our husbands or wives. To that guy who might be the new boyfriend. 

Selling only becomes sleazy when 
- you don't believe in your product or service
- you don't believe in yourself. 
- there is no real value to what you are selling. 
- you try to convince someone to buy before you know if it will solve their problem.
- you don't know what their problem is and/or don't care.
- your product or service has no real use - to anyone.
- your "spin" has become so far spun that it is no longer authentic. 
- you are so busy talking you have forgotten to listen.

Selling is not just about taking the order. It's about understanding  people and their appetites. It's about creating need and filling that need. It's about understanding problems and offering solutions. It's about learning to tell a story that engages.

Nothing sleazy about that in my book.

Note- I will be speaking on why sales is a critical skill at BlogHer Pro in San Francisco October 22-23 !

BlogHer Pro is for professionally-minded online influencers interested in taking their business, marketing and technical skills to the next level. If that's you - sign up today!

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

How To Lose A Customer 101

It's much easier to lose a customer than keep one that already exists. 

Keeping one involves investing in good customer service. It requires the intersection of technology with humans - trained to and able to think and help a customer in need. It means you understand that today - even if your product is really great - there is  always an option for another that does the same thing. It means understanding how easy it is to lose your customer to a competitor.

Yet I continue to be amazed how many companies don't. They create web support that is not user friendly and frustrating telephone systems that keep you caught in a maze of prompts until you get someone on the line that might be really helpful - if you both happened to speak the same language. 

Case in point is what I experienced a few weeks ago with Hewlett-Packard as I tried to configure my existing wireless printer with my brand new modem from the folks at Time Warner Cable.

The result of that adventure is the following user friendly list of what you too can do, if you want to lose a customer to a competitor.
  • Have a website that offers "support" but doesn't answer the question the customer has.
  • Have a customer support phone service that makes the customer first talk to a robot.
  • Make sure that robot never offers a question prompt that fits in with the customer's problem.
  • Make sure that your 7-Day a week Customer Care line does not employ people on the weekend who can help if the customer has an Apple product.
  • Make the customer pay a fee for your help when their product is out of warranty. 
  • Take the money - but don't solve the problem. 
  • Have a customer rep who tells the customer that their three year old printer is a "really old machine" and that must be why it is not recognizing the brand new modem the cable company delivered the week before.
  • Have the rep promise not to reverse the charge for support but never send the confirmation. 
  • Have the rep try to upsell the customer a new printer as a solution.
  • Have the rep promise to send information on the upgrade deal.
  • Don't do that either.
  • When the customer decides to call one more time, hopeful they will get another, more knowledgeable rep on the phone make sure they get the same one.
  • When the customer tells the rep they discovered in their online searches that the problem has to do with a compatibility with Arris modems and would like help on a work-around have the rep (who never heard of this issue before) consult with his "mentor."
  • Have the mentor inform the rep the problem is a "known" incompatibility with that printer model and Arris modems and there is no solution.
  • Have the rep suggest the customer have the cable company come and replace it with one that does.
  • Make sure that the "known" incompatibility is nowhere in your troubleshooter answers on your website support FAQs.
  • Offer no formal apologies and in no way try to make amends for the fact the customer has been charged for support that did not fix the problem or the fact they have now been without a printer for two weeks.
  • Do not seem the least bit phased when the customer tells you the new printer they are going to have to buy will most certainly not be one of yours. Ever. Again.
  • Send a request for feedback on the support the customer received and assure them a "personal response will not be provided." 
  • Somehow manage to place a sponsored "suggested post" in their Facebook feed that afternoon on how "hot" your products are.

And just like that you too can lose a customer to a competitor ! The key is to automate support as much as possible and not properly train and equip the humans you do employ.

My new printer could have been an HP but it's not. It's an Epson which for the record, had no problem recognizing the modem.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Days You'll Never Forget

There are days that you never forget. Days in your life that when you let yourself think about them, the memory is more clear and vivid that what you did in the last hour. Every detail floods your being as though you are watching a high definition television screen. Only here the experience takes over your body as if you are living it all over. 

Even though it is something you never want to relive.

And before you know it there are tears running down your face.

The day Kennedy was shot is like that for me. The day my father died. The day I walked out of a full time corporate job for the last time. And today.

When I left my house this morning to go to the gym I was glad it was overcast and humid. I've grown uncomfortable when today is one of those picture perfect September days in New York when the summer isn't really over and the fall hasn't really begun. The kind that of day it was twelve years ago.

I walked past my local fire house and I saw the trucks parked on Amsterdam Avenue blocking the driveway.  The garage was open and inside it was set up with tables and chairs and white paper tablecloths covering the tables. One firefighter stood on a ladder raising the flag.

By the time I was finished at the gym and I walked back the tables were filled with people. The families. Firemen were greeting each other at the entrance. One leaned on a cane. Someone was filming outside. He told me they asked not to take pictures of the families.

I paused. Because I will always pause today. As long as I live I will never not take a moment to remember.

I will go back to that moment standing in my office on 19th Street watching Pat Kiernan on NY1 with a picture of the North Tower behind him and what looked like a plane hitting it. I will be in our large conference room with my colleagues watching as the second tower hit. I will walk up Sixth Avenue with three of my coworkers in a daze along with throngs of strangers. I will see the looks of all those people - resolute and staring straight ahead. The sirens will blare in my ears. The firetrucks will race by.

I will walk into that church on 23rd Street and cry. I will walk back into my apartment and for the first time not feel safe there. I will walk through Central Park, the sun casting brilliant shadows over the eerie silence. I will hear a quiet I once thought impossible in this city. I will sit in that cafe on Second Avenue with my friend and no matter how many vodkas I have I will still be sober. I will live the days and the weeks after trying to make sense until I realize it will never make sense. I will let myself feel it all again as I watch the memorial on television. Until they read the name of my friend I went to junior high and high school with, William J. DimmlingI will cry. 

This is my ritual of remembrance.

And then I will go back to my life today. I will go on. Because that is what you do. Even after days you will never forget.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Importance Of Getting Your Hands Dirty

Yesterday I greeted a new crop of graduate students. One of their assignments for the semester is to start a blog. I've learned to expect the reaction to this to range from enthusiasm to fear to 'what has this got to do with digital marketing'.

My explanation is that creating a blog to call their own is experiential learning. It's a way to understand the myriad and ever changing assortment of digital marketing tools available and to know first hand the challenge of creating new content on a consistent basis.

It's about getting your hands dirty. 

I'm a big believer in rolling up your sleeves and letting the dirt get under your nails. It makes us better at what we do if we understand it from the ground up. 

Yet too many of us run around preaching from a place we've never been. We run businesses we don't understand. We claim to know places we've never visited. We think letting our hands get all messy and soiled is something reserved for children - not for adults.

Getting your hands dirty is something very few of us are willing to do anymore. Digging in sounds too pedestrian. We literally fill our pockets with anti-bacterial lotions in fear that some unknown dirt particle will infiltrate our system and mar the pristine environment we keep ourselves housed in.

My Nana used to say a little bit of dirt never hurt anyone. In fact it can make you wiser, stronger and more resilient. My Nana was a wise woman.

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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Why Intrusive Marketing Is So Yesterday

If you live in New York City you know we have an election coming up this Fall that includes not only the office of Mayor but that of Comptroller, Public Advocate, Borough President and City Council. And you know that next week is the primary. 

It's hard to ignore. 

Take yesterday. I had six phone calls from candidates. Only one was a human.

My mailbox was stuffed full of political promotional material. 

I learned why there are robots making the phone calls. The humans are standing on the street corners and at every subway station, literally shoving paper under my nose and then acting offended when I shove it back. 

And then there is the local news. Every time I turned it on there were no less than three candidate's ads in one commercial break.

I wanted to tell them all that intrusive advertising has gone out of fashion. Marketing in 2013 is about engaging me, not annoying me. I wanted to suggest giving me a reason to want to listen instead of trying to force feed me. I wanted to tell them that this constant bombardment of campaign promises and mudslinging against their opponents was not going to help any of them get my vote. In fact, it was starting to backfire. 

Their promotional material was going to the shredder without me even reading it. I was hanging up on their automated messages. That is as soon as I was sure the call was not from a potential new client.  

But as I mentioned, only one was a human. And by the time she called I was so fed up I hung up on her too - after I told her - not at all politely - that these calls were intrusive and out of hand. 

Besides - I'm not sure if any of them heard me they would listen

Too many marketers don't get how out of fashion intrusive marketing has become.  They resist using new digital technologies and when they do they insist upon applying old thinking to their strategy.  So they push and they push and bombard and bombard some more - convinced this is the only way they will be heard - until you, the recipient find yourself yelling at a robot call. 

New York politicians are not alone. There are many brands who hold on tight to push marketing principles. 

The Wall Street Journal keeps sending me solicitations that say Welcome Back on the outside of the envelope even though I have no subscription.

More Magazine called wanting to "talk" to me about my subscription to which I replied - are you kidding? I have no time to talk to you about my subscription. I barely have time to write this blog!

Which leads me to this. In a world in which the noise level keeps going up and time is at a premium, trying to push your way into mine will not work. In fact - it may do you more harm than good.

One final note. While researching for this blog I discovered a cool new website called that is an inclusive list of all the candidates and their records and not the least bit intrusive.

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